Kaija Saariaho

Finnish Composer (b.1952, Helsinki)

Kaija Saariaho is a Finnish composer, born in 1952. Her work is influenced by spectral music and has been shaped by her research of timbre, electro-acoustics and multimedia. Kaija Saariaho is one of the key Finnish composers of her generation. She has performed internationally to great acclaim and been the recipient of numerous prestigious composition awards.

Kaija Saariaho studied several instruments and the visual arts, before undertaking composition at the Sibelius Academy, in Helsinki, with Paavo Heininen, and with Klaus Huber and Brian Ferneyhough, in Germany. In 1980, she worked in several electroacoustic studios, including the Finnish  Experimental Radio Studio, the French IRCAM Institute , the Digital Studio of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM), and the EMS, in Stockholm. 

In 1982, Kaija Saariaho moved to Paris to work at the IRCAM and explore computer music. New technologies and sound research have influenced her composition process, allowing her to combine instrumental writing and the sound editing process. The timbre of the flute and the cello naturally lent themselves to her research; this can be seen in her works Laconisme de l'aile for Flute and Près for Cello and Electronics. She particularly enjoyed working directly with performers such as cellist Anssi Karttunen, flautist Camilla Hoitenga, sopranos Dawn Upshaw and Karita Mattila, and pianist Emmanuel Ax.

Kaija Saariaho has also composed pieces for ensembles and orchestras, such as the diptych for orchestra Du cristal... à la fumée, as well as  NoaNoa, Amers, Près and Solar. Kaija Saariaho has equally participated in a number of multimedia productions such as the ballet MAA (1991) and Prisma, a CD dedicated to her work, which won the Académie Charles Cros Multimedia Grand Prix, in 2000. Her three operas; _L’amour de loin, Adriana Mate_r and _La passion selon Simon_e, with librettos by Amin Maalouf, combine both spectral music and lyricism.

Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Kaija Saariaho
1982 : Moved to Paris
1986 : Won the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis in Darmstadt for Lichtbogen
1988 : Won the Prix Italia for Stillben
2000 : Release of the Cd-rom Prisma  dedicated to the work of Kaija Saariaho, which won the Prix Multimédia Charles Cros
2011 : Won a Grammy Award for her opera L’amour de loin
2013 : Won the Grand prix lycéen des compositeurs for Leino Songs

Six Key Works by Kaija Saariaho
 1991 : Maa, Dance Music in seven parts
 1997 : Graal Théâtre for Violon and Orchestra or ensemble
 2000 : L’amour de loin, opera in six acts libretto by Amin Maalouf     2005 : Adriana Mater, opera in two acts, libretto by Amin Maalouf
 2006 : La passion de Simone, libretto by Amin Maalouf based on the life of Simone Weil
 2008 : Emilie, monodrama in nine scenes, libretto by Amin Maalouf